Free Trade: Up until what point does it make sense?

I will keep this short, because I do not have the empirical data off-hand to really write a “substantial” criticism.

So the idea is in the past countries used to profit off of erecting tariffs and charging fees and taxes on imported commodities.  Since this technique of raising revenue has long fell out of the political toolbox the real question is, do countries really even have the right to protect domestic industries, and do they want to?

Considering that (at least until now) labor is not fully mobile across nation-states I would argue that countries do need to implement some type of protectionist measures on certain industries.  Free trade is only as good as indices of labor mobility.

Americans move to North Dakota to drill for oil.  Mexicans and Central Americans illegally cross the U.S. border to stockpile funds and send them back to the mother country.  Turks are moving to Germany and Romanians now sit outside of Spanish cathedrals.  Buenos Aires is the new Brazilian Disneyland. 

Is this labor migration the rule or the exception?  Do these migrations indicate that a free trade agreement is needed, or that it could be beneficial?  Does the lack of a “natural migration” indicate that maybe a free trade agreement could cause more harm than good.

Maybe the key is to implement free trade agreements with countries that have high inflows and outflows of one another’s populance as well as the criteria that their economies are complementary.  Free trade agreements need some degree of exclusivity.  If not, every country considers itself a “spoke” between 3 various trade blocs, it’s ridiculous.

Mexico wants a special agreement with the EU, MERCOSUR, and the Pacific Alliance, as well as being a full NAFTA member?  When everybody has a free trade agreement with everyone else, what does that really mean?  Tabula rasa for economic competition?  Or do we just end up where we were before?  Or is there a slow movement to equalize economic opportunity and parity worldwide?  How slowly does this change occur?

 

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